Friday, September 16, 2016

Cruising the Web

Ed Morrissey links to a CNN story about how Democrats are worrying that Clinton is bringing down their hopes of winning the Senate.
Less than two months until Election Day, Democratic confidence has been shaken, as Hillary Clinton suddenly finds herself trailing Donald Trump in some swing states and a fresh batch of polls show GOP incumbents in the lead.

"Everybody needs to step it up," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

In Ohio and Florida, GOP incumbents now have double-digit leads, according to a new CNN-ORC poll released Wednesday, undercutting Democratic efforts to pick up seats once viewed as prime opportunities. In New Hampshire, two polls show Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte now in the lead after falling behind Gov. Maggie Hassan last month. And in Nevada, Rep. Joe Heck holds a slight edge over his Democratic challenger Catherine Cortez Masto, buoyed in part by Trump's sudden resurgence in their state.

This comes as other seats that once appeared within reach, like John McCain's in Arizona, seem to be a steeper climb. And a prized Democratic recruit in Indiana, former Sen. Evan Bayh, has stumbled on the campaign trail, seeing his once commanding lead now shrinking to single digits.

One thing in common: Trump has all-but-erased Clinton's lead in some of the key battleground states with major Senate races, according to a batch of new public opinion polls. He's up by 5 points in Ohio and 3 in Florida, according to the CNN-ORC poll.

"If I'm a Senate Democrat, you have to start thinking about: Do I run away from her?" Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said of Clinton.
While I don't think that Democrats are taking campaign advice from Lindsey Graham, I bet that there are a whole lot of Democrats who are wishing that Hillary wasn't the head of the ticket just as there are Republicans who wish that Trump wasn't on the head of their ticket. The difference is that there was plenty of opposition to Trump. There were, after all, seventeen GOP candidates who entered the race and quite a few of them were reasonable candidates that one could picture running well in the general election. In my opinion, it's certainly a shame that those candidates like Scott Walker or Marco Rubio didn't win. However, Trump is doing surprisingly well in the polls, but it's almost all due to what an awful candidate Hillary Clinton is. These Democrats running this year who thought they had an excellent chance to take over the Senate with seats to spare. Now it looks like it's up in the air. I bet they're regretting that they all supinely accepted the coronation of Hillary Clinton and only a septuagenarian socialist took a serious run after her because everyone accepted her inevitability. And now they are looking into the abyss of what it means to run with Hillary at the head of the ticket.

Morrissey also writes
that, in addition to Clinton weighing down the ticket, Obamacare is back as an issue. So many of the Democrats running for the House and Senate are going to have to answer once again for their vote for the disastrous health care law. In each state, the GOP candidate can connect hikes in insurance premiums to their opponents' votes.
Insurers have filed for massive premium hikes in some of the key states where they had hoped to compete. Voters in Illinois, where incumbent Mark Kirk is vulnerable, will see premiums go up in 2017 by 45 percent starting on November 1, the beginning of open enrollment, one week before they go to the polls to vote. Democrats had hoped to pick off Chuck Grassley in Iowa, but a 30 percent increase in premiums will give even more momentum to the Senate Judiciary chair.

Premiums are only part of the problem. NPR reported this week that skyrocketing deductibles have become “the new normal” in health insurance – and not just for ACA exchanges. Deductibles have risen faster than the rate of inflation in employer-provided insurance to slow down increases in premiums, which have gone up 20 percent over the past five years.

Democrats promised that government control over this marketplace would “bend the cost curve downward” and result in an average reduction of $2500 in annual premiums for a family of four; instead, more of their disposable income and savings have gone to health insurance and out-of-pocket expenses.

The dislocation of Obamacare consumers in many more states may have an even worse impact on Democrats. Voters in almost all key battleground states have at least one insurer pulling out of the exchanges, and in some cases more. Ohio will lose two insurers in every county, which will force consumers to find new policies at ever-higher prices.
The Republicans won seats in 2010 and 2014 campaigning against Obamacare. In 2012, the Democrats benefited from having Obama on the ballot and the Republicans ended up nominating the one guy who couldn't prosecute the case against Obamacare because he had enacted a similar program in Massachusetts.
As bad as voters perceive Obamacare now, wait until November 1st, when many ACA exchange consumers will find out that they can’t keep their current plans or insurers, and many more have to work through massive price increases to meet their legal obligation for coverage. Even more voters will find out from employers how much the increased costs will eat into their 2017 income, forcing them backward instead of forward in buying power.

Republicans just might score the layup on continued GOP control of the Senate in those final seven days. And if they do, Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for their rush to slam-dunk a disastrously bad law in March 2010.
Since the bill passed with 60 votes in the Senate, any Democratic senator who voted for it can be cast as the deciding vote. And they will have to answer to voters who will be receiving notices about the bad news about their health insurance. Expect the Republicans to be running lots of ads reminding voters of what the Democrats have done to our health insurance system.

Republican groups are already up with ads
targeting Evan Bayh in Indiana for his vote in favor of Obamacare.

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This was a question
that had, actually, occurred to me. I guess I'm not the only one whose mind works that way.
Now that Republican nominee Donald Trump’s weight is a subject of discussion in the 2016 presidential election, no one seems to be asking: How much does Hillary Clinton weigh?

Trump and Clinton released new details about their health after shocking footage of Clinton collapsing while being hoisted into a van Sunday forced her campaign to disclose her pneumonia diagnosis. Clinton released a letter from her doctor with more details, while Trump revealed a one-page summary of a recent exam on the “Dr. Oz Show.”

The media quickly seized on Oz’s finding that Trump is overweight, while rushing to proclaim Clinton a normal and perfectly healthy woman, apart from her cough and pneumonia diagnosis.
Lots of media outlets and individual journalists commented on the health risks of Trump's weight. I'm not good at judging people's weight, but I would bet that Hillary's weight is far above average for her height and would put her in the danger range. I'm not one to criticize because my weight is nothing to brag about unless I'm trying to pose for Rubens. Isn't it sexist to only talk about a man's weight and not a woman's? Do we only body-shame men?

New documents that were hacked from the DNC reveal how there was "pay to play" in the awarding of ambassadorships in Hillary Clinton's State Department and for other positions in the Obama administration.
The most explicit language was included in a May 18, 2016 email sent by Perkins Coie attorney Jacquelyn Lopez to staffers at the DNC, in which Lopez asked them to set up a call "to go over our process for handling donations from donors who have given us pay to play letters."

A separate document lists the presidential appointments that were doled out to donors. That list notes the highest bidder, Matthew Barzun, contributed $3.5 million to President Obama's first election in 2008, and subsequently received an appointment as America's ambassador to the United Kingdom and Sweden in August 2009.

Julius Genachowski, who donated a little more than $3.4 million, was appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in June 2009. Frank Sanchez, who donated nearly the same amount, was awarded a position as undersecretary at the Commerce Department in 2010.

Of the top 57 donors, 18 received ambassadorships at Clinton's State Department. The cheapest, Bill Facho, paid a paltry $950,718 to serve as ambassador to Austria from 2009-13. The median price was about $1.5 million, and the four contributors closest to that range received appointments to South Africa, Belgium, Luxembourg, and New Zealand.
Of course, presidents have been giving ambassadorships to their big donors for a very long time. It's just rather startling to see it all laid out in a document that uses the phrase "pay to play" to explicitly term what they were doing. As Kimberley Strassel writes, this casual corruption truly is deplorable.
These emails provide what the public always complains it doesn’t have: unfiltered evidence of what top politicians do and think. And what a picture they collectively paint of the party of the left. For years, Democrats have steadfastly portrayed Republicans as elitist fat cats who buy elections, as backroom bosses who rig the laws in their favor, as brass-knuckle lobbyists and operators who get special access. It turns out that this is the precise description of the Democratic Party. They know of what they speak.
Donors to the party got ambassador or administration jobs. Donors to the Clinton Foundation or countries paying Bill to give a speech got special access to the secretary of state. And they haven't stopped even though she's running for president.
News comes this week that despite the Clintons’ promises to distance themselves from their foundation, they will first be holding what sounds like one last fire sale on future presidential access: a belated birthday bash for Bill Clinton, with a glitzy party at the Rainbow Room in Manhattan. A donation of $250,000 gets you listed as “chair” of the party, while “co-chair” costs $100,000. Foundation officials are refusing to say who has donated, or how much.
Add in what we've learned about how the Democratic Party rigged things to help Hillary win the nomination. I bet there are some Republicans who wish their party had been able to rig things to bring in an establishment candidate rather than Trump.
This is the modern Democratic Party. The more it has struggled to sell its ideas to the public, the more it has turned to rigging the system to its political benefit. Don’t take Republicans’ word for it. Just read the emails.

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Robert G. Kaufman laments that there is no candidate for someone who believed in a Reaganesque approach to foreign policy. Trump is hopeless. He expresses more admiration for Putin than Reagan and he seems completely ignorant about our historic alliances. But Hillary is no prize.
Hillary Clinton named the ill-fated reset with Mr. Putin, subverting Ukraine’s independence and imperiling America’s Eastern European NATO allies fearful of becoming Mr. Putin’s next target. She also blocked efforts to place the murderous Boko Haram on the State Department’s list of international sponsors of terrorism, fostering the Obama administration’s fictitious narrative that killing Osama bin Laden had ended the war on terror.

Mrs. Clinton—emblematic of the administration’s unwillingness to acknowledge radical Islam as a danger—blamed the attack on the Libyan Embassy on a Coptic Christian video denigrating Islam rather than on the obvious culprits and their Islamist motivations timed for the anniversary of 9/11. She fatuously called Syria’s Bashar Assad a reformer with whom we could do business, and she touted the absurd notion that American “smart power” could substitute for American resolve, moral clarity and military might.

Mrs. Clinton remained silent, too, on President Obama’s systematic, unwise and dishonorable obsession with putting distance between the U.S. and a democratic Israel while conciliating the worst and most anti-American regimes in international politics. Candidate Clinton still defends an indefensible Iran deal she advocated as secretary of state that puts Iran on the autobahn to crossing the nuclear threshold while tranquilizing Americans to the gathering danger....

As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton bears heavy responsibility for the debacle in Libya. She was the administration’s leading proponent for American intervention under the auspices of the United Nations, NATO and the Arab League, bypassing the Congress. Libya has become a breeding ground of Islamist terrorism because America’s mission was ill-defined and its withdrawal premature.

Nor did Mrs. Clinton resign on principle when Mr. Obama prematurely withdrew from Iraq, failing to negotiate a status of forces agreement that would have retained a sizable American presence—something the president could have achieved had he wanted it. On the contrary, Mrs. Clinton voiced no public objection to Mr. Obama’s catastrophic decision precipitating Iraq’s collapse, with ISIS and a revolutionary Iran filling the vacuum.

Nor, despite her allegedly private misgivings, did Mrs. Clinton resign on principle or object publicly to Mr. Obama’s bungling and vacillating policy toward a Syrian civil war that has metastasized into a murderous, regional and sectarian civil war and a humanitarian refugee crisis wreaking havoc not just the region but also in Europe and the U.S.

The pivot to Asia that then-Secretary of State Clinton unveiled in 2011 has also proved hollow. Like Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton has de-emphasized the gathering danger of China’s swelling ambitions, defined combating climate change as the priority, and emphasized diplomacy rather than American hard power. The combination of China’s military buildup and America’s precipitous build-down that Mrs. Clinton backed has increased the apprehension of traditional democratic allies in East Asia as well as India.
If you've liked the results of Obama's foreign policy, then you'll love Hillary Clinton's.

David Harsanyi reminds conservatives that, just because they've bought in to the Trump candidacy, that they shouldn't buy into his more cockamamie positions, especially his admiration of Putin.
Then again, this growing Putin admiration among conservatives probably reflects two dynamics. The first, one we’ve seen on numerous fronts in this election, is the corrosive effect this Republican nominee has on the principles and long-held beliefs of conservatives, in general.

Rationalizing your nominees’ inconsistencies isn’t unique. It’s conventional behavior from partisans in every election in every political party. What makes 2016 different is, 1) Conservatives outside find themselves outside their comfort zone, sometimes taking positions that contradict 40 years of philosophical positioning. 2) Trump’s stances don’t oscillate, they thrust in unknowable directions all the time — oftentimes more than once a day. Keeping up can make a partisan look more like a shady apparatchik.

The second, far more concerning aspect of this trend is that Putin-love likely reflects a genuine (once-latent) shift among Republican voters. There’s a lot of talk about how “elites” and the ruling class have led the nation to a candidate like Trump. It seems to me that in many ways, Trump’s fans pine for their own muscular ruling class.

Well, if you’re a fan of an unaccountable plutocrats, you’ll love Putin’s Russia....

It’s also worth pointing out that Trump praised Putin’s “control” of his country, not his foreign policy. That’s something his defenders seem to ignore.

Trump is helping normalize the idea that we need a strong president who gets things done — regardless of how he goes about it — rather than one who navigates through the messy, slow-moving swamp of republican governance. He’s not alone, of course. It’s basically a coarser version of Obama’s contention (no, I’m not saying Putin and Obama are the same) that he has a moral duty to circumvent the legislative process on issues he finds particularly important; or Tom Friedman’s notion (others share it) that the Chinese state should be praised for its commitment on climate change, no matter how it gets that done. Like a anyone else, there are Americans willing to embrace authoritian methods if it means forwarding their cause. Especially in the case of a national emergency — which is always.

Ben Shapiro diagnoses one reason why Trump seems to be on the rise and Hillary is descending.
uddenly Trump’s got all the momentum, and slew of positive polls to boot.

But while Trump recovered from his worst showing a few weeks back, here’s why Hillary Clinton might not recover: she has to stop being Hillary.

Trump had to stop being Trump in order to gain in the polls; Hillary has to stop being Hillary in order to do the same. But it was easier for Trump to stop being Trump. That’s because Trump defined himself as a borderline nut job, a crazy man willing to do or say anything. To stop being Trump merely required him to start reading a script....For Hillary, the problem runs deeper. People think she’s corrupt and dishonest. That’s because she’s corrupt and dishonest. To stop being Hillary, she must stop being corrupt and dishonest. It’s easier to feign sobriety than it is to feign truthfulness. Even when Hillary tells the truth these days, it sounds like a lie. And there’s no way for her to escape herself.

This is the cruel reality of politics: political standards operate precisely like personal standards. If you have a family member who is an alcoholic, if he dries out, he’s a success; if you have another relative who’s a vice president at a bank, and he blows $10,000 in Vegas, he’s a failure. Objectively, the alcoholic ranks lower on the humans-you’d-trust-scale than the VP at Chase Manhattan, but you’re holding them to different standards.

The same is true for Trump. If he acts like a rational human, he’s won. But Hillary has to overcome her serious trust issues – and as Ted Cruz learned, it’s incredibly difficult to shake the “untrustworthy” label once somebody has applied it.

Which means that Hillary has serious, lasting trouble here. She can’t shake being Hillary. But Trump could fake being not-Trump long enough to make it to the White House.

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David Ignatius examines
what the U.S. can do in response to Russia's increasing cyberattacks. The depressing thing is that there doesn't seem much we can do except try to improve our defenses.
“A line has been crossed. The hard part is knowing how to respond effectively,” argues one U.S. official. Retaliating in kind may not be wise for a country that is far more dependent on its digital infrastructure than is Russia. But unless some clear signal is sent, there’s a danger that malicious hacking and disclosure of information could become the norm.
Gee, if we can't retaliate and we don't seem to be able to build up our defenses sufficiently, all that seems left is talking. And that's not going to do anything.

For those who didn't live through the 1990s or who have short memories, Peggy Noonan reminds us of the callousness of one of Hillary's first scandals - Travelgate. You know, even for someone like myself who was paying attention back then to the slime that the Clintons brought with them to the White House, I'd forgotten what an unnecessarily vicious and mendacious approach Hillary took to those whom she didn't consider her people. If she casually destroyed someone's life, why not? She could.
It was the first big case in which she showed poor judgment, a cool willingness to mislead, and a level of political aggression that gave even those around her pause. It was after this mess that her critics said she’d revealed the soul of an East German border guard....

On May 19, 1993, less than four months into the administration, the seven men who had long worked in the White House travel office were suddenly and brutally fired. The seven nonpartisan government workers, who helped arrange presidential trips, served at the pleasure of the president. But each new president had kept them on because they were good at their jobs.

A veteran civil servant named Billy Dale had worked in the office 30 years and headed it the last 10. He and his colleagues were ordered to clear out their desks and were escorted from the White House, which quickly announced they were the subject of a criminal investigation by the FBI.

They were in shock. So were members of the press, who knew Mr. Dale and his colleagues as honest and professional. A firestorm ensued.

Under criticism the White House changed its story. They said that they were just trying to cut unneeded staff and save money. Then they said they were trying to impose a competitive bidding process. They tried a new explanation—the travel office shake-up was connected to Vice President Al Gore’s National Performance Review. (Almost immediately Mr. Gore said that was not true.) The White House then said it was connected to a campaign pledge to cut the White House staff by 25%. Finally they claimed the workers hadn’t been fired at all but placed on indefinite “administrative leave.”

Why so many stories? Because the real one wasn’t pretty.

It emerged in contemporaneous notes of a high White House staffer that the travel-office workers were removed because Mrs. Clinton wanted to give their jobs—their “slots,” as she put it, according to the notes of director of administration David Watkins—to political operatives who’d worked for Mr. Clinton’s campaign. And she wanted to give the travel office business itself to loyalists. There was a travel company based in Arkansas with long ties to the Clintons. There was a charter travel company founded by Harry Thomason, a longtime friend and fundraiser, which had provided services in the 1992 campaign. If the travel office were privatized and put to bid, he could get the business. On top of that, a staffer named Catherine Cornelius, said to be the new president’s cousin, also wanted to run the travel office. In his book “Blood Sport,” the reporter James B. Stewart described her as “dazzled by her proximity to power, full of a sense of her own importance.” Soon rumors from her office, and others, were floating through the White House: The travel office staff were disloyal crooks.

The White House pressed the FBI to investigate, FBI agents balked—on what evidence?—but ultimately there was an investigation, and an audit.

All along Mrs. Clinton publicly insisted she had no knowledge of the firings. Then it became barely any knowledge, then barely any involvement. When the story blew up she said under oath that she had “no role in the decision to terminate the employees.” She did not “direct that any action be taken by anyone.” In a deposition she denied having had a role in the firings, and said she was unable to remember conversations with various staffers with any specificity.

A General Accounting Office report found she did play a role. But three years later a memo written by David Watkins to the White House chief of staff, recounting the history of the firings, suddenly surfaced. (“Suddenly surfaced” is a phrase one reads a lot in Clinton scandal stories.) It showed Mrs. Clinton herself directed them. “There would be hell to pay,” he wrote, if staffers did not conform “to the first lady’s wishes.”

Billy Dale was indicted on charges including embezzlement. The trial lasted almost two weeks. Mr. Dale, it emerged, could have kept better books. The jury acquitted him in less than two hours. In the end he retired, as did his assistant. The five others were given new government jobs.

So—that was the Clintons’ first big Washington scandal. It showed what has now become the Clinton Scandal Ritual: lie, deny, revise, claim not to remember specifics, stall for time. When it passes, call the story “old news” full of questions that have already been answered. “As I’ve repeatedly said . . .”

More scandals would follow. They all showed poor judgment on the part of the president, and usually Mrs. Clinton. They all included a startling willingness—and ability—to dissemble.
This is who she was back then. It's who she is now. She's a despicable, power-hungry, lying human being who doesn't mind destroying those who get in her way. I wonder how many career employees at the White House in jobs like the travel office who were there in the 1990s are eagerly anticipating the Clintons' return. Donald Trump's character may well be no better. He hasn't sounded like he was a good person to those whom he had power over. But at least he'd be someone new and different. With Hillary those underlings know what they'd be getting.

And what they'd be getting is a woman who can't stop lying.
Hillary Clinton affirmed a serious illness this week. It wasn’t bacterial pneumonia.

Bill Safire diagnosed the disease twenty years ago when he evaluated Hillary Clinton as a “congenital liar.”

....Candidates recover from falls, literal and metaphorical. Reputations don’t recover from patterns of deceit.

She Brian Williamsed about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire. She Tommy Flanaganned saying she never fired the White House travel office to staff it with Arkansas cronies. She Baron Munchausenned about her parents naming her after Sir Edmund Hillary (he summited Everest years after her birth). She Joe Isuzued about the FBI exonerating her in regard to the accusation that she emailed classified information on a private server. One could go on with myriad Joe Bidens and Bernie Madoffs.

Such acts of deception help explain the Republican’s 15-point advantage in the “honest and trustworthy” category in a recent CNN poll. Donald Trump suffering from the opposite malady, loose-tongue syndrome — giving out a rival’s cell-phone number here, charging full-speed ahead against a family that lost a son to war there — explains the disparity as well. The very attribute that attracts some voters to Donald Trump repels other voters. This week, as an opportunity to kick his downed opponent arose, Trump rose to the occasion by biting his tongue. One can learn self-control at 70. Honesty at 68 comes as a hard habit to make.

Machiavelli noted, “One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.” The Machiavellian pol perpetually discovers the truth of the Clintonian philosopher’s take on lies. Partisans believe. But any candidate needs more than stalwarts to gain election. Clinton, who enjoyed double-digit leads in several polls last month, now sees herself in a dogfight. The truth catching up to her allowed Donald Trump to catch up to her.

Nobody not currently opposed to Hillary Clinton awards a vote to Donald Trump because the Democrat coughs too much. They withhold their vote because she lies too much. And this comes despite the fact that the electorate grasps that politicians constitute an especially mendacious bunch. They expect office seekers to kiss babies and lie and not much else. In hugging a child after lying about her illness, Hillary Clinton alienated voters she looked to satiate. Even the photo-ops say something about her character.

Health remains a private matter for most. But for one seeking the presidency, privacy often becomes secrecy. Hillary Clinton didn’t need to cover this up. Everyone has been sick. Why couldn’t she just come clean at some point and say, “I’m under the weather”?

As Bill Safire could have told us if he didn’t get sick, truth just doesn’t come naturally to her.

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Who knew? Apparently, waving the Betsy Ross flag is now considered racist.